Distinguishing Between Cathedrals & Basilicas

Cathedral vs Basilica

Christianity is a major global religion with approximately 2.2 billion followers. The faith has significantly influenced the development of Western civilizations and has shaped the destiny of much of the Western world. There are various places of worship in Christianity, such as cathedrals, churches, basilicas, and shrines, which can be confusing for non-Christians and even many Christians. This article aims to clarify the differences between a cathedral and a basilica to eliminate confusion for readers.


The term “cathedral” originates from the Latin word “cathedra,” meaning the seat of the bishop. Therefore, a cathedral contains a bishop’s throne and is typically a significant church in the area, perhaps the most important in the diocese. It is essential to remember that all places, regardless of their names, are churches where Christians come to worship Jesus. The meaning of the term “cathedral” reveals that it is the home church of the bishop or the archbishop in the Catholic denomination.


A basilica is a Roman Catholic Church designated as such by the Pope. When Rome became Christianized, many buildings were converted into places of worship with a unique architectural design, making the structure resemble a rectangle with outside columns looking like the Holy Cross. While such buildings in Rome were called basilicas, subsequent ones have been designated by the Pope due to their historical, architectural, and spiritual significance. Once a church is declared a basilica, it remains a basilica. Therefore, a basilica serves as the highest designation for a church. The largest and most important basilica globally is the Basilica of St. Peter’s in Rome.

Key Takeaways

  • A cathedral is the seat of the bishop and contains the bishop’s throne, serving as an important church building in the area.
  • A basilica is a church designated by the Pope due to its historical and spiritual importance, serving as the highest designated church in a place.
  • Some basilicas are also cathedrals, and there are seven major basilicas, all located in Rome.
Dmitri Ivanov
Dmitri Ivanovhttps://whats-different.com
Dmitri Ivanov, a writer and managing editor, was educated in Canada and holds a BS in Science. Dmitri loves doing research, writing, and teaching various courses.


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